Saturday, February 03, 2007

Front Range Tornado

Tornadoes are powerful and fascinating storms. I have had several close encounters with them, and while I have a healthy respect for these phenomena, I also am drawn to them. When I was in high school, a waterspout (tornado over water) chased our deep-sea fishing trip further out into the Gulf of Mexico. That one was created by the approaching Hurricane Camille. When I lived in Houston, a tornado ripped the roofs off of houses across the street from mine, but left my side of the street intact. Then in Tulsa, I have had several close encounters, including a funnel cloud that passed over our house, sucking the air up the chimney and taking your breath away, and tearing down the fence in my backyard.

In the last decade, the Oklahoma City area has been hit by F-5 tornadoes that did tremendous damage, especially to the suburb of Moore. That outbreak on May 3, 1999, destroyed an outlet mall I used to shop at when I lived in Tulsa. Halfway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa is the town of Stroud, which was home to the Tanger Outlet Mall along I-44, the Turner Turnpike. It was taken down by a tornado on the same day as a wide area across Moore and Midwest City were swept away.

The eastern plains of Colorado get quite a few powerful tornadoes as you get closer to Kansas. One example was the 1990 tornado that destroyed much of the town of Limon. Closer to the Rocky Mountains, we tend to have less powerful tornadoes, but they are interesting nonetheless. This picture is one I took as a funnel cloud was forming between Parker and Franktown. This shot is looking toward the south from Stroh Road near its intersection with Parker Road (Colorado Highway 83). It was a stormy, late afternoon a couple of summers ago, and the clouds were moving very fast and displaying great amounts of turbulence. Several of these had formed, and a couple had touched down. This was just a case of being in the right place at the right time to capture the picture.

I have found out that there are storm chasing vacations you can take, going along on tornado chases and getting up close and personal with these monsters of nature. Sounds like more fun than a Caribbean Cruise, don't you think?

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